As the global community is striving to achieve joint development in the 21st century, the importance of development cooperation is ever increasing. After transforming from an LDC to a member of the OECD/DAC in half a century, Korea is now serving as a bridge between developing countries and advanced countries as ‘Grateful Korea,’ and paying back the global community for assistance it previously received.
In 2009, when Korea joined the OECD/DAC, Korea’s ODA grew in quantity and quality through continuous efforts to expand the budget of international development cooperation projects, improved systems of project implementation, adjustment of credit assistance proportion and so forth.
These achievements were possible because KOICA supported its ODA partner countries to become self-sufficient, pursued universal values such as humanitarianism and human rights, and strived to carry out development cooperation projects that corresponded with global standards. Moreover, these results would not have been possible without the participation of the Korean public. Koreans proudly worked on-site at international development cooperation projects and enhance their country’s global status.
KOICA’s ODA projects are carried out by the general public, private corporations, civic groups, and government agencies under the theme of ‘Grateful Korea.’ Members of the Korean public take part in diverse development cooperation projects by serving as overseas volunteers in the World Friends Korea program, serving on the mid- and long-term advisory committees as World Friends Advisors, and by participating in international cooperation internships. Various private corporations and government agencies are carrying out development cooperation projects in partnership with KOICA. NGOs are also participating in different types of public-private partnership projects with KOICA, which contribute to the instantaneous effects for the local people.
1. World Friends Korea
The overseas volunteer program is a major initiative that invites public participation in KOICA’s work. By dispatching personnel from different walks of life who are interested in sharing and volunteering, Korea has been able to transmit its development experiences face-to-face. It is therefore a human resource exchange program that has promoted the universal value of mutual prosperity.
During the past 20 years, this program has been highlighted as‘ grass root cooperation’due to the ways these volunteers worked side-by-side with the people of the partner countries. Upon the foundation of KOICA in 1991, it overtook the overseas volunteer programs which had been overseen by UNESCO. Since KOICA dispatched its first team of 37 volunteers it has sent 7,762 people to 61 countries as of 2010.
[Figure 1-1] The First WFK Photo Contest Grand Prize With all my mighty strength
■ Ms. Lee Jung-im’s Grand Prize winning entry in the First WFK Photo Contest held in 2010. Ms. Lee was a volunteer teacher who worked at Case des tout-petits Touba Ndoron in Kaolack, an area about 3-4 hours away from the capital of Senegal.
Increasing public interest in overseas volunteering and a higher demand from developing countries for volunteers have caused KOICA to increase the number of volunteers it dispatches. Between 2000 and 2004, the average number of volunteers dispatched by KOICA annually rose from 220 to 720. Since 2008, based on the government’s“ Initiative for Training Global Young Leaders,”around 1,000 overseas volunteers have been dispatched annually.
KOICA has also diversified its types of volunteers in order to facilitate broader public participation. Its volunteer teams now include team based volunteer groups, senior experts, and NGO volunteer teams. KOICA has also conducted institutional renovation in its volunteering programs by holding year-round volunteer recruitment, introducing an information system for administrative support for volunteer programs, adopting a volunteer team qualification certification system, and sponsoring scholarship programs for returning volunteers.
The year of 2009 marked a historical milestone in Korea’s overseas volunteering activities. The Korean government launched “World Friends Korea (WFK),”an integrated government-run overseas volunteer program. By creating WFK, the Korean government aims to unify different volunteer programs that were separately carried out by various government agencies, such as the Ministry of Public Administration and Security and the Ministry of Science, Education, and Technology, under a single volunteer system. As a result, WKF has unified overseas volunteer programs implemented by four ministries and six organizations. KOICA has served as a mediator for WFK by overseeing and distributing funds and establishing the overall policies of the network. This consolidation is expected to coordinate scattered volunteer activities and prevent the implementation of programs from overlapping, thereby solving aid fragmentation. The initiative also is expected to promote a consistent and consolidated national brand image.
Korea International Cooperation Agency. 2011. 20 years of KOICA 1991-2010, Translated by Institute for Development and Human Security, Ewha Womans University. Seoul.